How to pull off a Concert in 6 Hours

This summer, I had the delightful experience of putting together a recital with some musical friends - some old and some new. A couple of people had the idea and reached out to others and myself to flesh the whole thing out. On August 6th, we put on a very lovely woodwind chamber recital, and we're aching to do another!

Our Program and Personnel

For the recital we performed the following:

  • Ligeti Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
  • Dubois Petite Suite for Bassoon and Flute
  • Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 for Flute and Bassoon
  • Taffanel Wind Quintet in G Minor

Our Personnel were:

  • Hilary Janysek, Flute
  • Catherine Miller-Wardle, Oboe
  • Jason Baker, Clarinet
  • James Ryan Morris, Bassoon
  • Sarah Wilkinson, French Horn

Here are the steps we took to pull off a great recital in a limited amount of time. The first steps listed are more on the Objective side of things - concrete and must-have items one should employ when doing something like this. The second set of steps are more from my perspective in what I learned from this process. Enjoy!

Objective Steps

1. Have a Prep Stage
So, ok, the title is a bit misleading because technically the total time of planning and executing this recital was over the course of nearly 3 months. The six hours mentioned in the title refer to the amount of sit-down rehearsal time the musicians put into it. Regardless, the prep time involved is very important:

  • Have your idea ahead of the time you intend to pull it off (about three months for us). 
  • Secure all the players you need, and get the music out to everyone. Ryan, our Bassoonist, reached out to all of us in May, but he had all the repertoire settled and the location and time were already set up for the first Saturday in August. Ryan made sure we all received our parts and were available for the date of the event.

2. Individual Preparation.
In the time between the initial plan and final execution, individuals must use the time to practice and get to know the pieces. The recital was set for May, and we were all able to use June and July to practice individually. 

3. Put all the parts together, quickly and efficiently.
This cannot be done if each individual does not know his or her own part. There can't be any weak links.

For the week of the concert:

We did 4 rehearsals. Three were evening rehearsals, and each were about 2 hours long. We ran what we could and wood-shedded parts that needed it. We set ourselves reasonable hours to work, 7-9pm, and didn't push past our time limit (people have lives/work/commitments on top of what we were doing, and we all respected that). 

Night one: all of the Taffanel, three movements of the Ligeti.

Night two: all of the Ligeti.

Night three (dress rehearsal): With some starting and stopping, mostly everything was run through or at least touched upon. What was not covered was hit the next day.

In the meantime, Ryan and Hilary worked on their own to get their duets up to snuff.

Day of the recital: The recital was at 2pm, we met at 12:30pm. We set up and ran things we felt needed one more check up. (Second movement of the Taffanel in entirety plus the beginning of the 3rd movement. Ligeti: the final movement as well as the Clarinet/Flute duo in movement 5)

Subjective Steps

1. Don't be the weak link.
Work on your own to know your part. It will fit into the puzzle best when your piece is clear and strong. If you don't know your music, you slow everyone else down. Don't waste the rehearsal time trying to figure something out in your part. Do that on your own time and don't hold everyone else up. Rehearsal time is for the group. Individual practice time is for you.

2. Have at least one person in the group who has done the material before.
This person can be the guide to help others through the piece, and he/she can act as the artistic director and leader of the ensemble. I had not performed the Ligeti or the Taffanel before, but Ryan had. Ryan was a great guide for our group and gave fantastic direction when we were lost in a sea of crazy time signatures and syncopated rhythms.

3. Cater your program and delegate your workload.
If you have people in the group that can handle more work - place it on them. You'll probably have a better end result that way than trying to make everyone pull more weight through the process. Two of the pieces in our recital were duets for Flute and Bassoon. Now, it's not that the other three in the woodwind quintet were not as strong as our Flute and Bassoon - on the contrary! Everyone was a stellar musician. However, I personally felt the relief of only having to prepare two pieces. I had just come off of a run of Les Miserables, and I was already kind of mentally spent walking into this recital effort. It was a relief to have some of the work delegated elsewhere. Our Flute player was on holiday from working on her Doctorate up at Ball State University and had a little more time on her hands to work on extra material. 

On the other hand, if you feel that you can take on more of the load - offer it to your fellow musicians. They may be appreciative of the relief in workload. Perhaps offer a piece you can play to give them a break during the concert. Or if you can't devote the extra practice time, offer to come early to set things up or bring bottles of water for everyone. Be a team player in these DIY concert events. Heck, be a team player in your regular music work as well. One guy I work with sometimes always brings water for all the wind musicians. Another brings a king-sized candy bar for everyone on opening nights if we're doing multiple shows. Classy! I love working with people like that.

Side note: we also realized we needed someone to make programs and program notes. I immediately suggested my husband, who is a walking-Wikipedia on Classical music. He was more than happy to do it, since he already writes program notes for a couple of ensembles in the area. This is another example of delegating the work out. 

4. Don't have an ego.
Humility is necessary when working on limited time. Someone may point something out to you that you need to know in your own playing. Accept it, add it to your playing and move on. Everyone in the group is listening for what will make the best performance. Don't be a drama queen and slow things down. (Drama always slows things down.)

5. Mistakes will happen, so let them be.
My husband and I talk often about the beauty of live music: since it's live and performed by flawed beings (we ain't robots), there are bound to be flubs and mental errors. This makes the event more humanizing, in our opinion. Of course, these become fewer the more mature you become in your playing, but it still happens. So when you're putting something together as quickly and efficiently as possible, there will be some mistakes that might just be out of your control - no matter how much you practice in your limited time. Let them be, and do not stress yourself out before the performance. If you are more relaxed about your general performance, chances are you will be able to fix a flubby spot better than if you are up-tight and tense about making things perfect. (Things won't be perfect anyways, but you can make them pretty darn good.)

6. Have multiple rehearsals. 
We set up three for ourselves, but after our dress rehearsal (the night before the recital), we still hadn't made it all the way through everything as a whole. We decided to meet a tad earlier the day of the recital to touch on what we couldn't hit in the dress rehearsal. Doing this helped everyone feel a bit more at ease. I promise, you can't pull off an effective concert or recital in just one rehearsal. You need to have the chance to run things multiple times on different days. 

Rehearsals are necessary because it gives the musician the chance to know how the musical task must and will be performed. Recently I had a church gig that doesn't do rehearsals (just show up and do the service). The man who hired me gave me a heads up for a transition between two pieces. Sounded simple enough, but when we got to that point in the service, I still ended up missing my entrance because I was not entirely clear on how the transition would go. I wasn't familiar with the piece we were transitioning into, nor did the conductor give the cue like I thought he would. One 5 minute run through would have solved that. I would have been able to hear what the piano was going to play, and I could've bounced off that music when the time came. (Side note to who hired me: not complaining at all, still had a great time playing at your church!)

***

So there you have it! Pull off a concert in six hours - it's totally possible! Have you ever put something together quickly or in a limited time frame? How did that go? Leave your stories and experiences in a comment!

All the photos were taken by our Clarinetist - Jason Baker.

Jason Goes to Juilliard

This Spring I sat down with Jason to hear of his recent trek to New York for his audition to Juilliard. In addition to several orchestral excerpts, Jason prepared the First Clarinet Concerto by Louis Spohr, Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, and Hommage á Manuel Dufalla by Bela Kovac. All photographs are taken by Jason Baker - the King of Selfies.

The bottom-line of what I experienced was: it’s just an audition. I have now succeeded in two major auditions. One was the Fort Worth Symphony.They denied me, and then I asked to go. I really had no business doing it because they went straight to the hardest Eflat-Mahler-type-symphony excerpt. It was horrible. I had a 50% chance of nailing those notes. Julliard is now in that same category of ‘just doing an audition’.

 

·      Sunday 3pm or so was when I arrived.

·      7pm was the piano rehearsal.

·      10:45am on Monday was the audition.

·      Then there was the anticipation of waiting

·      There were a couple of sessions to go to learn about Julliard. It’s mostly geared towards the freshmen.

Tuesday was set aside for the callback. The DMA callback would’ve been an interview, not another playing time. By the way, I got to the audition solely based on my resume. They did not ask for a pre-playing thing. I didn’t even have to ask them to reconsider anything. They accepted me to come out there because of my resume and my letters. I had to write a letter of motivation, why a DMA program, and who was my most significant mentor. (Randal Bass was my mentor.)

The piano accompanists they provided for me: I’m going to try and keep this as nonjudgmental as possible. But I don’t think there can be a way to keep it from being judgmental, because I know what my tastes are in piano accompanists. Out of the three that I messaged and they provided, (which would’ve been free minus a $40 rehearsal thing) one of them never responded at all. I think they responded after the audition. Can you believe that? That was the better out of the three.

The second one responded but didn’t answer my questions: “Have you played the piece before?” “What is your rehearsal time?” All they said was, “Yes! I can do your audition.” I never got another communication from them by email.

The third one communicated plenty, but was very opinionated. I had a typo in one of my words – which, ok, I need to stop having typos. She was like, “By the way you should probably spell this correctly.” It was an ‘e’ in Copland by accident. C-O-P-E-L-A-N-D. (On my list that I submitted on the website I spelled it correctly, so somehow an ‘e’ got in Copland.) I’m like, “You’re just here to play piano.”

I got so stressed out about this piano accompanist situation. This is not working – I can’t get them to answer the question of whether or not they’re available for a rehearsal, what time they’re available for rehearsal, and I can’t get a clear gauge of whether or not they know the Copland. Copland is not something easy. Someone said it looks deceptively easy. It’s not. It’s very hard.

I threw it out on Facebook. I got lots of support. That was so rewarding to see so many people working hard to find me a piano accompanist. Some people were confused - they didn’t know I was going to New York. “Well there’s this person over here in Bedford [Texas], and there’s this person over here in Euless, or UTA…” In our circle of friends and musicians, someone found me someone.

 This could get out and it could be bad, but I’ve decided that it needs to be said:

Piano accompanists need to do their job very objectively, not subjectively. They need to not throw their own weight around of their opinion of the music or how to play the music. They just need to play it. It better be clean, it better be prepared, and you better not be reacquainting yourself with the music in the rehearsal. Because in a situation like this someone is spending a lot of money to fly out to show up to that one rehearsal they get.

Now, me, I might be naïve. I had my little quirks of things I was worried about that were going to be consistent. This pianist that was found was very well versed. He’s got a very nice website, had a lot of things that he’d accomplished, and knew the piece. Indeed, h­­­­­e knew the Copland. But man, it was scaring me to death in this rehearsal. It was choppy. It was inconsistent. I could not play my part because I needed the foundation of that [piano] part. I was breaking down in the rehearsal. After the rehearsal, I had to call a couple friends to get my sanity back.

Shout out to Andrea Harrell and Joel Adair. They gave me really good confidence with their own experiences. Andrea told me, "for the mistakes the pianists might make, you got to be able to fight your way through it.” So she told me to put on a distraction: “Put on death metal or something.” I put on the TV – on that channel that’s in the hotel where it does all the previews of all the shows. I’m sitting there practicing my solo, listening and watching the TVI think I remember somebody telling me that they used to practice by reading the newspaper and playing. Something that distracts you and you can still maintain your music – you know it that well.

Rewind back to that rehearsal, I managed to go back to one particular part of the Spohr clarinet concerto, and I said, “Let’s just do this spot again for the next ten minutes.” I turned away from the pianist. I pictured myself back at home playing with Smart Music. I blanked out everything elseI imagine there are some books that tell you to try this technique or something, right? It worked.

He said he loved German music, he loved Sporh. So when he started playing it, he started playing it with his own emotion and started putting his own nuances. I’m sitting there (in my mind) going, “No! No! You better play this as classical you possibly can.” This is early – I say early Spore – it’s his first clarinet concerto. I feel like it rides the bridge between classical and romantic. I’m going to play this as clean and straight and as pure as possible. He was all putting emotion into it.

Got to the audition the next day. The panel was about approachable as possible. Charles Neidich, he’s a clarinetist from the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble – a childhood hero on clarinet. He was on the panel. Their eyes were very welcoming. I’m sure they were judging in their mind, but their body language said something completely different. So I wasn’t nervous for the panel. I was lucky that I played the unaccompanied [Hommage á Manuel De Falla by Bela Kovac] which probably would’ve taken up the first 7 or 8 minutes. Then they asked for Spohr, and they only listened to the first movement – the first half of it.

So we played through that and I felt like it went really well, minus one spot that I flubbed on. I recovered, kept going, didn’t stop. Then they asked for the unaccompanied cadenza part of the Copland. I believe my audition was a good 85 to 90% representation of what I play. I was proud. And I think that Joel told me, “If you can walk away from an audition and be proud of what you put out in front of you as a good representation, then you know you had a successful audition.”

I tried to play the Super C right before I played the Spohr, I looked at [the panel], and I go, “Excuse me.” I went off to the side to change my reeds out, and they go, “Yeah, the Super C.” And so I change reeds, and I tried the Super C [sings excerpt]. And they’re like, “Yep, that’s a good reed!” It was the coolest thing ever! And it came out in the version of it that I played. That was nerve-racking.

The anticipation for the email at the end of the day: it was anywhere between 6pm and 10pm that an email was supposed to show up. I believe the email showed up around 9:30. It was brief, clean and dry. It says, “We are not considering you for the next round.” So I’m like, “Alright, there it is. Tuesday is now a vacation.”

By the way, all of this was Monday and Tuesday of UIL week. I lucked out that my UIL time was Thursday. Monday, the high school director rehearsed my kids. [She] came in, and it was basically a clinic session, so I’m thankful for her for doing that. So Tuesday I’m sitting there, walking around the park, stressing out about UIL. I’m trying to enjoy Central Park and the museum. One of my other friends from UTA was also auditioning for the Manhattan School of Music, so we met up and had lunch. He got $25 tickets to the Metropolitan Opera. I looked up ticket prices, thinking, “Oh, I’ll just go buy me a ticket.” $663! That’s probably like the cheap tickets, too. Well, there’s our football game version of tickets I guess. (NFL comparison) He got student tickets somehow. And I couldn’t get any, so I missed out on that.

All of this gets put in the book – my little mental or experiential portfolio. It’s the second audition that I’ve achieved, where I had to spend a lot of money, get on a plane, work up some literature, play in front of a panel. And that one was more successful that the Fort Worth one, so that’s good.

In the future, I actually might fork out the money to bring a piano accompanist with me if I have to. Or, I will pick my literature better to be unaccompanied. I almost played “Abyss of Birds, which is an unaccompanied Clarinet solo in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. I should have chosen that. Although if you’re nervous and shaking that is so hard because it starts nothing-quiet and crescendos to the most intense volume you can get to.

 When you got the email and you read it, how’d you feel?

 I set aside a place in my mind to accept whatever answer. When I got it, I was in the hotel room, staring up at the skyscraper out the window, just kind of chilling and relaxing. I was actually letting my phone charge too, so I was constantly going over and looking at the phone. Email? No. Email? No. When I finally got it, I just sat there in a calm state paying attention to my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, whatever it was, and I go, “What is it? What am I feeling? How am I processing it? Do I want to post it to facebook? Everyone’s anticipating the results.”

I knew that Juilliard was a huge audition. I wasn’t, like, sad. Maybe I was like, “All that effort, and there’s the no.” It took probably a good 24 hours to process after getting back home. That’s when it finally dawned on me: auditions are a long trek of ‘audition, no; audition, no; audition, no.” And I’ve only done two. I had that Fort Worth Opera audition that I tried to do, but they didn’t initially invite me. I need more auditions if I really want the auditions to be a thing. But I don’t know if I’ve got it in me to do so many just for a lot of no’s.

That’s a thing that those that are on the audition circuit just have to accept. Ms Fabian said, “When you have these auditions, you just have a credit card. You go do the audition, and then you just pay it off. Whether you pay it off because you got the job or you pay it off slowly because you’re just still freelancing.”

That’s a really fascinating thought because you sort of pay it off in two ways. You do your sort of ‘pre-work’: you’re building up your rep, you’re practicing, people listen to you, like a month or two in advance. And then you do it and pay it off afterwards, whether or not you do get it.

 There’s a huge payoff in the experience.

·      Now I know something about piano accompanists.

·      Now I know something about budgeting for the trip – like having extra time for another rehearsal.

·      Enough time for maybe the pianist to get a chance to let it stew. I like to call it percolating.

·      The experience of choosing your literature.

·      The experience of what to wear. I wore my coat, my vest, my blue shirt. I wore that blue shirt that everybody likes.

It’s just a bag of experience. Each time you have something different. The amount of work I put into my reeds gave me a good selection. I had stuff that was inside a moisturized case. I had some that were just in a box to allow the climate change. I had some really old reeds as my third back up of reeds.

Lessons are probably a thing that need to happen too. I need to take my audition lit to some people. Now that I’m out of college I have to think about taking lessons with somebody. Andrea actually suggested this: going to Rice and talking to that Clarinet Professor because apparently his students are winning all the Clarinet jobs.

What’s the next thing you want to accomplish?          

I’m coming back to my entrepreneurship and my freelancing. There are a lot of things up my sleeve that I want to do. I want to do another recording project. I want to do more arrangements, and I want to make my arrangements sellable (if I print them out and sell them, and that includes the quality of paper and the binding that it’s in). I want to collaborate with my fellow musicians more. I’m currently playing Stravinsky with an octet at UTA. This is my second time to play it and I see the melody in this piece, and that is more rewarding than anything else that’s going on right now. That really is rewarding.

Interview: Katie Wolber

Photo Cred: Jeremy Gilliam Photography

Photo Cred: Jeremy Gilliam Photography

Katie Wolber is currently Third Horn of the Dallas Opera Orchestra and Principal Horn of the Dallas Chamber Symphony. Katie received her undergraduate performance degree at Southern Methodist University and her graduate performance degree at Northwestern University. 

S: What was your beginning on the horn?

K: My parents are both music teachers. It wasn't really, "Are you going to play an instrument?" It was: "What are you going to play?" They kind of always suggested very strongly that I would play the french horn. And I wanted to be different, because my mom plays flute, my dad plays trombone, my older sister plays flute, my brother plays percussion, and my little sister plays saxophone. 

I tried to start in 2nd grade. I was like 6 or 7. My dad brought home a French Horn because he was a band director, and he tried to help me get started. I was just too small: even putting the bell on the chair rather than your leg, the mouthpiece still went up to my forehead. So my dad said I would try to reach it with my lips. (Which I don't remember!) For two weeks, he would hold the bell for me as I learned to play on it a little bit. After that I just couldn't continue like that, so we put it away until 4th grade when they actually start instruments in Maryland. (We start younger.) I picked the French Horn. When I picked it up I already knew how to play a C scale because of learning in 2nd grade. 

They started me on lessons right away with my first teacher, Phil Hooks. He is really into the International Horn Society. He goes every time there's a symposium - no matter where in the world it is. I'd go to his house once a week for an hour for lessons. It's a lot different because they don't teach lessons in schools in Maryland. You have to go to the teacher's house, so not very many people take lessons. 

S: Did you ever want to try another instrument?

K: We had to play piano. We had to learn to read music before we actually started an instrument. Because my parents are music teachers, they didn't want us trying to learn to read music while learning an instrument. Like French Horn - it's just kind of hard. So that was kind of annoying in 4th grade when I had to wait for everyone else to learn to read music. I didn't last very long on piano, though. I hated it, and I hated being forced to practice. My sister was already really good at it. 

So actually considering another instrument? No. I played cello in high school for two years. But since I was the best horn player they kept saying, "Well, we need you to play on this piece because we need a horn player on it." So at one of those region/symphony/contests or whatever, I ended up playing half horn and half cello. Those two instruments combined with my color guard flags (and rifle and saber) in my car: it was just too much to carry everyday. And my backpack!

But I liked the cello. I liked the sound of it because it's so similar to the horn. I didn't ever really want to play anything else. I thought the French Horn was the prettiest. It's what the Christmas tree ornaments are! Ha!

S: So it's kind of like you've grown up on the Horn?

K: Yeah! I'm 28, and I started, technically, at the age of 8. So it'll be 20 years this fall. 

Katie, as I knew her in college.

Katie, as I knew her in college.

S: Have you ever thought about doing anything else?

K: For a living? Uh, well, yeah. Many times. 

S: Why do you keep sticking with the Horn?

K: Well, it's what I'm best at. I had a car accident almost five years ago. Right before the accident, it was a year after graduating Grad School. I wasn't really getting any work. I was teaching [private lessons], and I don't like teaching. I'm not a good teacher. I was like, "Man, maybe I should do something else with my life. Maybe I could do cake decorating for a living." I was thinking: "What should I do? I could go to culinary school," but then I was like, "Well, then I'd have to work restaurants during dinner hour."

Just thinking about it, I thought, "I don't want to do this anymore." Then we had the car accident, and I could not play my horn for 7 months. I didn't know if I would ever play again, and I missed it a lot. Even when I did start playing again, I didn't get a gig for a few months. 

I just like playing on stage, especially playing something like a Mahler symphony - big powerful horn stuff. I like it; I do enjoy it. There are definitely bad days, but, you know, there's a lot of good days too. It's also kind of nice that it's flexible. You usually get summers off, which is nice. 

S: You're speaking specifically about the Opera?

K: Opera, or even if I were with the symphony. Even when I was teaching, I didn't have all my students every day in the summer. I had like half of them. 

S: Do you still teach?

K: No. I mean if someone calls me for a lesson, then yes. But if someone asks for regular lessons I usually say no because I don't have the time. Or it's not necessarily the time, it's: they want regular lessons, on such a day, after school, every week. My opera schedule is so sporadic that I can't guarantee a regular lesson. Plus I travel a lot. 

S: To play?

K: Sometimes. 

S: Oh yeah, you took an audition in Norway!

K: Norway, yeah. That was fun. It was a low horn spot in the Bergen Phil. That was the last audition I took - April 2015. 

S: Do you feel the need to go on more auditions?

K: No. I think I'm done. I gave myself until I was 28 to win a job, and technically I've won a job. But you can't make a living on it alone. Luckily I'm married to an attorney. Also, the reason I'm not taking auditions is he [husband] is in school. We're not going to leave while he's in school. 

S: Do you think you'll ever audition again in the future?

K: No. Only if it's local, and even then only in certain circumstances. 

S: How long have you been with the Opera?

K: I won the job in March 2014. I should have started October 2014, but I had to take off the first half of the season because I had thyroid cancer. I had my thyroid taken out, and my doctor/surgeon wasn't sure I'd be playing again by the first rehearsals. I just took the first productions of the season off and started January 2015 on Everest. 

S: You've been through a lot of health stuff!

K: Yes! [laughs] Plenty of it. I've had like 10 surgeries. 

S: How has it been getting back into a routine of playing after taking time off?

K: When I started playing again after the wreck, I wasn't working very much. I guess I was teaching, and I was nannying. But I had a lot of time because I wasn't doing my normal concerts and stuff. After the ankle surgery, I actually did play, I just had my foot propped up on a chair every time I practiced. I'd have it set out on the table for weeks, and I would just wheel myself over with my little ankle-scooter-thing. I'd set myself up in my chair and practice. It wasn't the best posture, but I practiced. I had to go to my first Opera in a boot. I had just gotten off my knee scooter and crutches two days before my first rehearsal. I was able to walk on my boot, but I couldn't drive. The whole spring season I was driven around by the principal cellist. 

Photo Cred: Jeremy Gilliam Photography

Photo Cred: Jeremy Gilliam Photography

S: How was it getting over surgery for your thyroid cancer?

K: It wasn't that hard actually. I talked to another horn player who had the same thing, and she said she played the week after - she played a gig. It was just kind of sore, and I had some scar tissue build up that made swallowing feel kind of funny. I played a concert - a Halloween concert was my first gig back. So two months after [the surgery] I played my first concert, but I had started practicing again about 2 or 3 weeks after. 

S: Any advice you want to give to anyone going through something similar?

K: Don't rush it. Take your time. Always have a good sense of humor about it. That's a good question.

S: Well, obviously you had to do it. 

K: People are always saying, "Oh, you're so strong; I couldn't do that." And I'm like, "Well, if it happened to you, you would do it." You're not really given a choice. It just happens. It's not like I'm just going to roll over and cry for the rest of my life. You know? There's no point in that. It doesn't accomplish anything. 

A young Katie! This is about 2007.

A young Katie! This is about 2007.

S: What is the worst thing about your job as a musician?

K: I would say the worst thing is the politics and the drama involved. You realize that even in a world of music, it's kind of about who you know. That's how you get work.

S: What is the best thing about your job?

K: Uh, I don't know. Ha! I guess my favorite thing is getting to travel for free to play. I've been to Japan, Chile, and a few countries in Europe and not had to pay for it.  

S: Was that for festivals?

K: Festivals, and the European tour with the [Dallas] Symphony. That was 2013. 

S: I remember all the photos of Gail [Williams] and Greg [Hustis]. Do you still keep in touch with Gail?

K: Yeah a little bit. She's actually coming in town for the TCU Horn Fest first weekend of April. So you should go, get your students to go.

S: Alright, any final thoughts?

K: I would say one more thing: part of the reason I continued to play after the wreck is I figured if it wasn't meant to be my job I would've lost the ability to play forever. Because I did damage my face pretty badly in the wreck. And I have a fake tooth. So I figured if I can still play, I should do it.  

Photo Cred: Jeremy Gilliam Photography

Photo Cred: Jeremy Gilliam Photography


No.

A very hard word to hear is, "No". 

I have heard "No" a lot. I have watched others face some No's as well. It's not fun. You have a dream or a goal you want to achieve. You approach a superior or a gatekeeper to your next step in the journey, hopeful and energized. And then you hear it: "No". A flat out refusal for what you want to do.

Sometimes you get a "No" quickly and right off the bat. You refocus, readjust, and move forward. Sometimes, though, you hear "No" over and over and over again. You work hard, and are denied repeatedly and what would seem consistently. 

Have you been there? I have.

I've been turned down for lesson teacher positions. My resume has been rejected for a few orchestral auditions. Actually, I have yet to win a professional orchestral position. A few years ago I applied to do a PhD and was not accepted into the doctorate program at that university. In high school, I begged a teacher to not fail me during marching season, so I wouldn't lose my position as drum major. She said No.

I've seen similar things happen to my musical friends and colleagues. What's particularly hard for me is to watch my students get rejected as well. My students work diligently for months in a practice room, and yet get passed over for first chair, placement in the top band, Region, Area, State, etc. Then they ask me, "What happened? I worked so hard..." 

My kids ask me why they didn't 'make it' in their audition. It's a hard question to answer sometimes. What is the explanation for any of the No's we hear? Sometimes we don't get an explanation. Sometimes it's not the right time. Sometimes you're not the right person or in the right place of your development. 

This is a lesson necessary for us to learn, and I've ended up learning this later in life. My musical pursuit was quite easy in the beginning. I was the one of the best musicians around in my formative years. Honestly, I assumed it would always be that way. Ever since I got to SMU as an undergrad though, I have been learning that things don't come so easily. At 30 years of age, I'm learning how to respond when things don't go the way I want them to.

So I say now, remember to respond well. I have a fantastic interview coming up with a musician who has been through a lot of physical turmoil, and yet she is still a successful horn player in the Dallas area. When I asked her about her struggle and the possibility of giving up, she replied, 'Well, I wasn't going to sit around and cry about it. There really is no sense in that.'

Truly, there isn't any sense in it. Get your No, pick yourself up, and try again. Keep trying until you bust through to the other side.

Here is what I've found:

After looking at all the rejection in my life, I couldn't help but think about the things I have actually achieved. Two degrees, living abroad, recording for and touring with one of my musical heroes, composing for film, overcoming some performance anxieties, building a studio of students to the point where I couldn't keep up with the numbers anymore, meeting new people, making fast friends, gigging in all sorts of places and environments.

Sure. I got turned down once, but so many other wonderful things did happen in the meantime. 

A No will lead you to a Yes. Just keep going.

 

**Stay tuned for my interview with my good friend Katie Wolber! Coming later this week!**

 

Region Quintet!

Hi!

One thing I've always loved to do is take an existing piece of music and arrange a new version of it. I did that a lot as a kid with a demo of Finale we had on our computer. I would pull my piano books and arrange piano works for various types of ensembles. 

So this evening, I bring you a piece of a project I'm currently working on. 

Quintet for Etude #2

This is especially written for high schoolers, but I believe college-aged horns can enjoy this too! It's about halfway done, but I thought you might enjoy a taste of what's to come. 

I would have PDFs available to download, but I think I have to pay money to make them downloadable (thanks internet). So just email me ( wilkinsonhorn@gmail.com ) and I'll send them to you [for free! yay!].

Plus, I give you a [very crappy, sorry] recording to enjoy!

Hoping to finish within a couple of weeks.

 

The Horns of "Son"

Welcome!

A little while ago, Ryan from Sleeping at Last posted on his blog the making of "Son". You can read the blog here and you can download his beautiful song on itunes

I always love reading or watching behind the scenes stuff. I like to see how others make their art (it helps me make my own better). So I thought maybe I'd write a little on how the horn parts of "Son" came to be. 

Back in June, Jeremy Larson connected Ryan and I together for this project. (I met Jeremy through work from Sucré's first album A Minor Bird.) Ryan and I emailed a little before the work actually began. We scheduled a deadline for my work to be done, he sent the tracks, and I got to work.

Ever since I moved back to America in 2011, this has been just the kind of thing I've been wanting to do - write and work on music in my own space. I love making music, and I love working away in my little studio at home. However, in the past four years I've had to do the majority of my income-earning work outside of the home: horn lessons, teching for marching bands, masterclasses, freelancing around Dallas, etc. Whenever I did get to record for bands, I'd go and do it in person at their studio. 

This time was different. I had the means and the gear to do all the recording on my own, and it seemed to be cheaper and efficient to do the work on my end and send it in to Ryan when finished.

I had three days to send Ryan the finished product. Ryan sent me basic stuff - pretty much just a piano and vocal track. In addition to that, he sent a track of some MIDI horns and the written horn parts of the basic layers he wanted. He did, however, give me freedom to lay anything down on top of the initial horn parts.

The first part was easy. I had the written music of what Ryan wanted on a basic level, and didn't have to figure anything out by ear (thanks Ryan!). The only challenge was getting good enough takes and making sure everything was in tune. I finished that in the first day. 

The second part was more challenging: coming up with something good enough for a Sleeping At Last song. Ryan has been putting out impeccably awesome and beautiful music for years (like, good enough to be on TV and in movies). It was awesome to have the freedom to do what I wanted, but oh-so-daunting at the same time.

Day One:

The first night was spent on the basic horn layers. At the end of the night, I tried my hand at some of the extra lines, but that wasn't a good idea. I was tired and mentally spent on what I had done before. First I tried doubling the basic horn tracks I had laid down first. Didn't sound right. Ryan's song was on the delicate side, and doubled horn parts made it seem heavy and muddy in places. I knew this song needed to be light on its feet. So I saved my work and went to bed. 

Day Two:

I came back in the evening eager to flesh out some ideas. I spent the daytime teaching my lessons, so that night I felt ready to break into some creative thoughts. I started with bass lines: moving them around and forward through the music to give the horn lines some momentum. Easy enough. Paul McCartney turned me into a bass girl with his melodic lines. I always start there. 

The bass movement really helped me in some sections. For instance, the bit where Ryan sings, "And I will try try try..." things had kind of cooled down to a mellow sphere in my basic tracks, so it was easy to swirl around simply in my horn's lower mid-range. 

But other parts of the verse as well as the chorus were more elusive. Anything I tried seemed too inappropriate. It couldn't be too noodle-y; the piano was taking care of that . Long tones weren't right either; that just brought me back to my heavy doubling problem. 

So I started to think about what makes the horn special. What do we do well in the orchestral world? I pondered this as I experimented through that second night. 

Day Three: 

On the night before, I had a few good lines down (mostly stuff in the verses), but the chorus still did not seem quite right. I had some hours open during the day, so I worked in between lessons to meet the deadline. I'd teach an hour, and work on "Son" for a couple of hours; teach another hour, then hop straight back into where I left off. 

It wasn't until I need to refresh some of my lukewarm coffee that I got the answer to my problem. By now I had probably listened to "Son" two or three hundred times. If you listen to something that much in a short span of time, you don't really think about anything else musical. I walked to the kitchen absent-mindedly humming along to the tune in my head. Then I branched out to a little harmony, since I always find singing harmony much more interesting than melody. I poured my coffee, and made up a little harmony line without even thinking about it. 

And that was it. 

That's what I should have done all along! I should have been singing my parts...

That was the answer I was looking for. A horn sings. That's why the french horn is so beloved! It can soar above the orchestra and sing its melody through the hall. It sings boastful heroic songs. It croons tender melodies for lovers. It even sings the perfect tune for dinosaurs.

Listen closely... the horn sings with the strings in the main theme...

So there you have it. I ran back to my horn and was able to capture what I was singing pleasantly to myself in the kitchen. And I was done!

Well... except for all the tuning and editing I had to do. But I'll write about that some other time.

Do you miss summer? I sure don't. Bring on the cool days!

Do you miss summer? I sure don't. Bring on the cool days!

Being Terrible, Like Cat Stevens

One of my favorite musical artists is Cat Stevens. I think the first album I got into was one that just randomly was on my hard drive: Tea for the Tillerman. I was enchanted by his melodies and tunes. What a brilliant songwriter! 

Cat Stevens has an interesting story of how he got started. When he was young and still in school, he started pursuing a life of music. Knowing that being musical was something he wanted to do, he attempted forming a band. After all, it was the mid 1960s, and everyone in the world was hoping to be like The Beatles. Cat Stevens eventually decided he liked being a solo artist. 

Solo artists at that point were a little peculiar. The Beatles reshaped the music industry and music fandom. Musical groups, rather than solo acts, were the trend. However, solo acts still existed, so they were reshaped with new approaches and perspectives. It seems to me that the approach for solo artists in the mid 1960s was "How can we make these guys as big and grand as a rock and roll band?" So you start to see lots of sweeping camera angles, over-the-top sets and clothing, and so on. You had to make the experience of one guy singing by himself interesting enough to capture your audience. 

So that's what we see with early Cat Stevens. And in my opinion.... 

It's terrible. It's awful. It's pretty hilarious how bad it is. 

I mean, it's so terribly awkward. It's almost like the presenter doesn't know what to do with him. It's like Cat Stevens doesn't know what to do with himself. 

Now here's another video that's slightly better. He's not lip-syncing in this one, so he probably feels a bit more comfortable. But I still feel like he doesn't quite know how to be a solo act. 

But that was Cat Stevens in the very beginning. 

Eventually, he gets tuberculosis and is hospitalized for a long time. Getting sick and being pretty unsuccessful as a pop star can do a lot to a man. But Cat Stevens comes back in the new decade (1970) and does this sort of stuff:

And that's what does it for the whole world. He became massively popular in the 1970s. Eventually playing to huge, adoring crowds.

(Fantastic video!)

My point isn't that the music in the beginning was good or bad - I actually really like Cat Stevens's early stuff. My point is that he was just an awful performer. Cat Stevens was terrible at performing live in the beginning: wasn't very interesting to watch, looked continually awkward, and just couldn't sell the stuff he was singing. 

I tell my kids that everybody sucks in the beginning. I keep hoping that some of them will start to believe me one of these days (a couple are catching on). But I think I know why it's difficult to believe how rocky things are at the start. 

This summer I dedicated myself to going to the Classical Open Mic Night every week (if I was available to go). Every week I'd bring in a new solo to play for the patrons of the restaurant. First couple of weeks went ok: week number one I started with the first movement of Mozart 2, the following week I did the other two movements. 

However, the third week in a row, I really stunk it up pretty bad. 

That third week I decided to play a Bach cello suite - the really famous one that everyone knows. A couple of my students played it last year, so I sort of remembered how to play it. Even though I spent a whole week working on it, the solo was still pretty bad. 

I decided to go for it anyway. After all, I committed myself that I would perform every week. I would just go for it anyways, no matter what shape it was in. 

So I played. It started off pretty well. The restaurant seemed to quiet down as people listened with what I assumed was either curiosity or interested (a horn doing a famous cello piece??). I kept my composure for 85% of the time... until I got close to the end. 

Towards the end, the music starts doing these 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and octave jumps, moving chromatically higher while making the performer jump back down to the original note. This section ALWAYS kills me. It's something I've never been good at. Even now, after playing horn for 18 years, I'm still not good at it. I truly did spend a week working on the piece, but every time I played that ridiculous part I was just too tired to make all the jumps. 

I get to that part in my performance, and, as I expected would happen, my lip gave out, and the notes couldn't even speak anymore. I ended the piece as quickly as I could, squeaking out what little I had left in me, bowed, and ran back to my seat in humiliation. I could feel my face burning with shame. 

It's hard to believe that adage I'm attempting to teach kids these days: "everyone sucks in the beginning." It's not easy to grasp because of the level of humiliation involved. If you want to start something new, you're going to have to be ok with it being not great your first go round. That's pretty hard. Who wants to be shamed and humiliated? Who wants people to know you're not very good yet? Who wants their weaknesses to lay naked before all who can see and hear their work?

It's not easy. But it's definitely part of the process. I haven't figured out how to be ok with still be a newb at performing. All I know is that I have to keep going. I have to keep assessing how things went those first few times and decide how to make things better. 

Things will only get better when you start putting yourself out there to be listened to, judged, and critiqued. A risk factor is fear, shame, and humiliation, but I'm starting to find out how temporary those feelings are. And you know what? Most of the time the people listening to you have an element of support and encouragement in their hearts. A lot of audiences (the humane ones I guess) don't like seeing performers do poorly. I've found myself wishing an artist well when a set starts to go badly. 

So get up there and do you thing. It's not going to go great that first time, but have fun anyways. Chalk it up to experience and go with the flow. If you get scared off by potential humiliation, you'll never get any better and waste a lot of your life. 

Don't waste your life. Get all that bad stuff over with and move forward to the cheering, adoring crowds. 

 

 

A Common Horn Story

Today I had one of the best lessons I've had all semester. We only played about two scales in the entire thirty minutes, but I left that lesson with a great big bounce in my step. 

He is a new student, and today was our first lesson. Without giving too much away about the kid, I'll just tell you he recently switched over to horn from trombone - even though he started on horn as a sixth grader (and that was his instrument of choice as a beginner). I wanted to get to know him in this first lesson, so I asked why he switched to trombone in the first place. He told me what is one of the most common stories for a lot of 6th grade horns. 

"Well, I really sucked, and everyone told me I sucked. I had no idea how to play the horn, so I switched to trombone because my brother plays it and he could help me."

GOODNESS. This happens so often. I've written on here before how difficult that first year is for a horn player. French horn is HARD for crying out loud. Every year I get 6th graders who contemplate quitting because that first year is so hard. But it's doable. Very doable. 

What do you need to do for a beginner to help them start off well?

  • Exposure to pitch and instruction on how to hear pitches. 
  • Instruction on the logic of musical movements. Ups and Downs. Steps and Skips. (scales and arpeggios)
  • Space to hear themselves. 
  • Space away from other instruments. 
  • Space WITH other french horns.
  • Space to fail. 
  • A patient teacher. 
  • A teacher who really understands horn. (Sorry Woodwind people. Horn is not a Clarinet.)
  • Lots of encouragement, so their musical spirit doesn't die (and then they give up). Horn is more high maintenance than any thing else in band.

What a 6th grader doesn't necessarily need in their first year.

(That is, unless the other stuff is covered pretty well.)

  1. Extensive time spent on 'tuning' and 'adjusting' the horn - and I mean pushing in or pulling out the slides. (Again, a Woodwind sort of technique.) I'll admit this theory isn't super grounded yet - it's just an early theory of mine. However, I believe if you make a 6th grade horn 'tune' in band you do a couple things to hinder their early days on the instrument. A) You cause them to change the length of their instrument consistently, thereby making it even harder to learn where their center is. B) You teach them that tuning problems are only instrumental issues when instead it's probably embouchure or right hand technique.
  2. They probably shouldn't play the stuff everybody else in band is playing. Horn is literally not like any other instrument in band. For flutes, clarinets, saxes, and even trumpets: you put a fingering down, you pretty much will get the note you want. (Ok, ok. I'm being a little tongue and cheek. A little.) For horn: you put your first finger, second, or even no fingers down, then you will have a choice of about 5 different notes to hit. Take your pick. But I bet it won't be the one you want. I bet you, poor little 6th grader, won't even know whether or not it's the one you want. I have seen a few times, just in this semester, music that is way too complicated for my beginners. But dang it, that music is in the beginner horn book because other instruments in the band can play it. A young horn player needs more time than his/her colleagues to know where Middle C is and where all of his surrounding friend-notes are. It's not a 'fingering' (or slide position) issue like it is for everyone else. It's an embouchure/air/ear issue. 
  3. They probably shouldn't even play with the band (or even a brass section). At least for awhile. ALL of my younger ones say they can't hear themselves when they play with the whole band. This isn't good. Man, I can't stress this enough: we horns are NOTHING without our ears. Teach a young horn to hear themselves first before throwing them into a full band setting. If they know where they are, they will know how to find themselves in a sea of other instruments. 

That's it for tonight. Yes, it's a bit of a rant. Once again, just my two cents. 

 

 

What I expect from my students

Hello again, friends!

Woof. I love writing, and I've loved blogging for years. But boy it's hard to do it these days. I need to write more often though, since I really enjoy sharing my life with all who read about these horn things. 

I've had a few talks this year with parents who lament about their children not practicing enough. 

Since I've had this conversation a few times, I've had to consider what are my own expectations. Let me tell you, my expectations have changed over the past few years since I started this whole business. 

In the beginning (about 6 years ago), I expected each and every one of my kids to practice an adequate amount of time every week. I used to get real bent out of shape if a student showed up and HADN'T spent time on their horn. I mean, if they were going to take horn lessons, shouldn't they be serious about it?

I've learned some things about the personalities of a horn student. I've had the pleasure of being with the same set of students since the fall of 2012 - the youngest ones were in 7th grade and the oldest was in 11th grade. Those 7th graders are now in 9th grade, and I've watched them grow as horn players as well as people.  Watching their growth has shown me that there is a natural transition in a young musician's life. 

For 6-8th graders, I've observed how important it is for them to have fun in band. I really do want kids to enjoy band. And I want them to GET band (hence my job - teaching them how to GET music). But do I expect them to be serious? No. I expect them to enjoy music.

It seems that those who are serious that young tend to be serious in nature and therefore take things seriously anyways. I was always delighted to get serious students in junior high or as beginners! However I soon realized that most of the time seriousness was more their nature rather than for the 'love of horn'. I realized most 6-8th graders have no real idea of what they will be when they grow up. They are 11-14 years old. Still children! How can I expect them to be seriously grown up about the instrument?

Real seriousness for the horn itself (or just wanting to achieve good things and do well) starts to come out in high school - specifically in 10th or 11th grade. That seems late, doesn't it? The way I see it, a 9th grader is just a poor kid trying to make that leap from junior high to high school (it's a huge leap on the horn). Students generally find out what they are made of in 9th grade. Are they mice or men? Can they handle a full AP or Pre-AP load of classes? What extra-curricular activities really speak to them? Do they know how to be team players? Was joining the cross-country team a mistake? That's when kids figure out if they really actually like music, the horn, or band - and that definitely includes marching band. 

By the end of 9th grade, a horn player will know if he or she wants to be serious on the instrument or not. 

10th grade starts, and essentially students get a do-over. This year students can accomplish the things they wished they could've pulled off in 9th grade. The 10th grader is in better control of what he or she does, yet there is still a whole world of learning ahead. After that, the diligent ones work very hard through their last two years of school. And the ones who want to have fun in band... well they just keep on having fun. (And why not?)

Ok, what do I expect from my students?

For my 6th-8th graders: I expect them to learn openly and enjoy themselves in the realm of music. If they don't enjoy themselves in band then it's a good time to get out of band (or maybe learn how to enjoy hard work). 

9th graders: I expect them to work hard to survive that brutal year. I expect them to know themselves better at the end of this year. I expect that by May, their future dreams will crystalize in their minds.  I expect them to begin picturing what they truly want in life, and then resolve to go get it. 

10th-12th graders: I expect them to be truly 'serious' students. They know the game and how to play it. It's up to them to achieve what they want. 

This is what I expect from my kids.

Christmas Break Hours (2014)

I am officially open for business over the Christmas break! 

Lessons will be at my home over the break. Get in touch for address and direction details.

Contact Info

Phone: 214-801-8913

Email: sarahreno@gmail.com

Merry Christmas you darling Horn People!

Oatmeal and 6th Graders

Wow. I haven't written a post in such a long time. Isn't it funny how quickly time goes? One minute you're with a bunch of sleepy-eyed high schoolers marching at 7am in September, and then you blink: it's November, marching band is over, and All Region work is wrapping up. 

Over my evening bowl of oatmeal tonight, I decided to get a post going since the blog has been left so long. Day in, day out - life ticks by very quickly if you don't watch out. 

oatmeal

It is a very good thing to have points of pause throughout the day/week. You can catch up with the world around you. This moment now is a nice pause for me (mm, oatmeal). Earlier today I had another good moment of pause.

I returned a call to a band director who left me a message last week about a 6th grader. We chatted about the kid, and I found myself describing to the director my process for 6th grade horn teaching. 

This is my fourth year of teaching private lessons full time. Those first three years I was coming into band programs and teaching kids who had already been playing for at least a couple of years. Some had private lesson instruction, some did not. Some had a good first year of instruction, some did not. Regardless, I had to work with what I got. 

I realized this afternoon during my phone conversation why I highly value my 6th grade lessons: I get to start those 6th graders myself. For three years I have worked with maybe 50 different kids and witnessed the type of challenges they have with the French Horn. I started some of them and watched them graduate into the 7th and 8th grades, and they would still have troubles on the horn. Now in my fourth year, I am attempting to teach the beginners how to deal with those troubles since I have a better idea of what will be problems later on.

So here is a bit of my process. 

Scales

I believe what won me the job at Lake Highlands was that I told them I was nerd for scales. It's true. You could blame it on my upbringing in band (scales every day for at least 50% of class time), but I personally believe that if you can play your scales you can play anything. 

I start my beginners on the penta-scale (C D E F G) instead of the octave. I used to give my kids octave scales from day one, but I would quickly run into range problems. It takes some beginners 1-2 months to be able to get above the second line G. Shoot, it takes most 6th graders 2-4 weeks to figure out how to go 'up' on the horn. With a penta-scale, they have a goal closer in distance and they can still take their baby steps (baby steps are so important in music). 

Arpeggios 

I really wanted a way to teach kids how to play 'jumps' or 'skips' in music as early as possible since that is a big challenge later on. What I've settled with these days is having my beginners practice the three note arpeggio (C E G). In how I've laid out my penta-scales, all the corresponding three-note arpeggios can be covered with one fingering, so we play the arpeggio both with the one fingering (à la playing the harmonic series) and with the 'regular' fingerings. I love having students do this because both arpeggio methods (same and different fingerings) have challenges in the execution.

Ear Training

There is one big problem/challenge with playing the French Horn that I believe is sorely misunderstood or overlooked: EAR TRAINING. Most band programs test the wee hornist-to-be by having him/her sing a matched pitch with the director. This is great, but the ear training seems to stop there. 

I have a strong personal conviction for one aspect of horn-playing, and it was confirmed recently when I read a passage on horn in an orchestration book. From The Techniques of Orchestra by Kennan and Grantham (Fifth Edition, Pg 124):

 The horn is not by nature a particularly agile instrument. Very fast running passages and quick leaps are simply not in its province except, with limitations, in virtuoso solo work. And because the player must 'hear' each note in the mind's ear before playing it, the melodic lines written for the instrument should be as smooth as possible and should avoid awkward leaps.

When I read that passage, something very big and previously elusive crystalized in my mind. No wonder so many of my kids had so many woes in band. Many could not function with other instruments playing simultaneously with them. Only a few, it seemed, would understand how octaves are two notes in different places that sound the same. However, I noticed that many kids would understand when scales 'go wrong' (aka when they miss a flat or sharp or even a natural!).

The secret is the ear. What are my horn students hearing? Many, I believe, either hear nothing before they play or hear wrong things. With this piece of conviction fueling me in my pedagogy, I now teach in these early years that some things always sound the same - scales, arpeggios, 'concert F', etc. I want my students to know how to hear musically and to trust the information their ears give them. In my opinion, the ear never lies, and you can train it to be just as right and reliable as a perfect-pitched ear.

It's quite remarkable how kids don't know how to properly listen. Sometimes it seems that many of my students don't even know the ear is a usable thing. It's like being taught how to breathe for a wind instrument: we don't go around gasping deep breaths (natural breathing goes mostly unnoticed), but we must learn how to breathe deeply and blow strongly in order to play our brass instruments well. Many young musicians are unaware of the power the ear possesses. I aim to show them and train them to use it.

Figuring It Out

This will be the point with which some will find disagreement, so get ready. My bottom line: I cannot play the instrument for my student. This covers so many things in my teaching perspective, but most particularly the physical aspect. I cannot physically play for my students, so they must learn to play for themselves. This leads me to give a lot of space for 'trial and error'. In the beginning I try to instruct as minimally as possible. I place the mouthpiece in the best possible position, make sure posture and hand placement are correct, and then basically just tell my kids to 'BLOW!'

I believe the best embouchure is the one that is naturally formed. I've spent these past years trying to describe how to make an embouchure. Either I ended up not explaining it well enough or the student attempted to do what I was describing by making strange faces. These days, I set the mouthpiece in the best place and watch my beginner slowly form their embouchure over a couple of weeks. 

Obviously, not all embouchures form correctly right away (most don't, I've experienced), therefore I step in here and there and guide the beginners to the right path. However, these days I'm of the belief that one can experience the right way and wrong way to get the horn to work. You'll find that horn playing is usually very right or very wrong. Part of my job is to point out when the horn is worked well and when it is worked poorly or inefficiently. After that, hopefully I can teach the student to be able to discover these things when I'm not around to help. 


I could continue, but as it's going on 1am (yikes) I figure I'll leave it here. I'm happy I get to share my horn thoughts with the world.

Hopefully coming soon will be a post on the Bands of American competition I went to this weekend. What an amazing experience...


Bliggity Bloggity Bloo

Good morning folks. It's Monday. (yay)

We are now in Week Three of horn lessons for the YoungHornLife Studio. I sat down with a cup of coffee this morning and sent out what I felt was my first newsletter to all my parents and students.  This year is going to be legit, man. I can feel it. 

Summer band camp, 100 degree weather, and sleeping in are behind us now. These days we're in back in that daily routine of school. I have to say that I'm really enjoying this year, which is a year like no other I've experienced before. This last month I got to see students I've taught for a couple of years enter high school. What a strange feeling. In a way, they look like they were always meant for high school. The same is true for a couple of 6th graders I spent a lot of time with last year... they look like they were always meant for 7th grade! Junior High Band was where they were supposed to be all along!

I suppose that's life. Every day we grow into ourselves just a little bit more. Every month that passes we are more like who we were always meant to be. 

Anyways, very proud of my little studio. It's a pleasure to work with such wonderful kids. I don't even mind that most of them aren't going into music when they grow up. For a little while, I get to teach them the ways of music and listen to them be artists.